An actual family dinner conversation (and yes, I have shared this one before, but what follows it is all new):
SON: [to MOM] “So, why’d you move all that stuff and mess up the big room?”
MOM: “I need more space for my art and sewing and things. Maybe I’ll have people over, teach a class; who knows? I might even teach you to sew, so you can sew a button on your pants.”
SON: “Why would I need to know how to do that, when I’ll have a wife to do it for me?”
MOM: (shrieking) “WHAT!!!?????”
SON: “Oh, I forgot; you’ll all, like, feminist and stuff.”
DAUGHTER: [to SON] “Seriously, just stop. You’ll never win this argument against Mom.”
DAUGHTER: [to MOM] “Though, for the record, Mom, I agree with my brother. Sewing buttons is totally a wife thing.”
MOM: (deep sigh)
DAD: “Well, excuse my French, but you need to know how to fix your own shit. Change a tire. Fry an egg. Sew a button on your pants. Whatever. Everybody ought to know how to fix their own shit.”
DAUGHTER: “Why’d you say ‘excuse my French’ when you didn’t say anything in French?”
I would tell you how my mother taught me to cook, only I don’t remember. I have simply always known how to cook, and that’s that.
I have always known how to cook, so I have always cooked. Mostly, I have enjoyed cooking. It’s a relaxing way for me to decompress in the evenings, a kind of reset activity in between my office life and my home life.
When I started this blog in 2012, I didn’t have much of a plan other than to write about whatever I enjoyed doing. From the beginning, food, cooking, and my family were primary themes. I didn’t want to have a food or cooking blog, but preparing dinner for my family, shopping at the farmers market, thinking about how food brings people together, and exploring the creative aspect of cooking have always been interesting to me.
For a while I posted weekly menus along with weekly posts. I used that structure to put some structure in our family, deciding that we would eat as a family at least once a week. My husband is a very good cook, but only when given full use of the kitchen and an entire day to shop, prepare, and assemble. He agreed to share the family dinner preparation duties but warned that he could not cook the way I cook and that his nights would be markedly less gourmet than mine.
We trudged ahead. The offerings ranged from Hamburger Helper to artisan salads, made from lettuce and tomatoes that were grown in our own yard. We made pizza from scratch, though not as often as we ordered delivery. Countless apple slices, baby carrots, diced chicken breasts, and eggs. (So many eggs.) A run of Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays, because it lifted the burden of decision-making.
We shopped on Sundays, and shopped on Saturdays, and shopped from day to day, trying to corral the quicksilver of time. We simmered stews in the crockpot, freezing leftovers for a rainy-day stash.
We were wistful when we graduated from melamine plates, overjoyed when we discovered the Dutch Baby. We tried to keep the three-bite rule intact, even for the weird recipe tests (lemon pappardelle); but some days it just wasn’t worth the fight.
The long trail, from aqua sippy cup to balsamic-laced sheetpan, finally led to the surprising, sometimes brutal, realm of dining with teenagers, where every tender kiss and tough admonishment got served right back to its giver.
For the 18 years of our life with children, and for the years before that, family dinner has been our constant, the one routine that brings us together at least once a week. Our table has been marked by silly laughter and bitter dispute. Some nights we give each other grace and accept that we’re having cereal for dinner.
Dinner is the thing I always come back to. It’s the one routine we’ll continue, we two adults, after the children fly off to college, starting next year.
It also seems to be the one true constant outside of our house. In my five years of unscientific Facebook research, dinner appears to be the one remaining place of common ground and shared experiences. (See: Weeknight Dinner Around the World)
None of this means that preparing dinner is easy, because it’s so much more than cooking (thanks to Stacey Greenberg for finding/sharing that article). But it doesn’t have to be that hard, and we can help each other through it. Not with a meal plan or a grid or an app, perhaps, but just by sharing ideas about dinner.
So on that note, I’ve decided it’s time to revisit my dinner prompt blog. I looked back through all of that content and think there something there, at least for me. There are ideas I’d forgotten, things I’d forgotten writing about. While we can wander over a wide range of topics here, dinner prompt will just be about dinner.
I’m working on the content structure, balancing static content with fresh. It will take a little while, but I think the basic idea is there. Have a look, and let me know what you think. (And yes, I do think I might add the “I’ll light my hair on fire before I go back to the grocery” category. Thanks for that suggestion, friend.)
I’m not going to post there every day, and if you followed along the first time (or even the second) then you’ll see new edits of old stuff. It’s rough right now, but I’m going to tackle a little at a time and see what might happen. Maybe you’ll even help me, because food is best as a shared experience.
I have always known how to cook, so I’ve always cooked. And I’ve always known how to write, so I have always written. Both of those things are true because of my mother. Writing about cooking helps me channel the best memories of her, the things I hope to carry forward and give to my children, along with the skills to sew buttons on their pants.
Sewing is a lost skill since there are no Home Ec classes, which need to be reinstated for both genders.
Dinner Prep Idea: In a previous neighborhood, four families swapped family size entrees once a month.
Idea 2: Boil several chicken breasts, cool, and bag.
Brown 2 lbs each of ground lean beef/bison and ground turkey.
Cool, blend meats together, and place in dinner size prep bags in freezer to be pulled out for future recipes.
Jennifer, none of the above is probably new to you. Thought i’d share anyway.
FAMILY DINNERS MATTER!!!
Rule: #1 Don’t discipline children at the table on matters unrelated to table manners.
#2 Ask the “kids” to set the table to learn how. Give them a diagram once and they’ll Get it.
#3 Breakfast for dinner is a big pleaser….except for my husband. Have “kid favorite” meals when Dad’s away.
Don’t ever give up family dinner. My children, ages 37 and 41, will tell you that it is one of their fondest memories and that their friends all loved to be invited. I still do it for just the two of us. It ends the day for me and is a special “gathering in” time. I agree with Nada about getting – and teaching – children how to set the table and use good manners. It’s also where they learn the art of conversation and how to negotiate. Dinner was even more important after they went to college and came home. It seems to last longer and be way more fun. Your kids are lucky – your food is waaaaay better than what mind got!!!!
My children and grandchildren come for Sunday supper here most weeks. I don’t especially like cooking and cleaning for 10-12 people, but I certainly enjoy how all ages gather around the table to share the weekly news and bond with each other. Birthdays are very merry times!
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Family dinner has always been one of the most important parts of family life, and now it includes my grandchildren as well! We love to cook together, and one of our favorite things to do is include our kids’ (and now grandkids’) friends. They love inviting a friend to join us, and often we put them to work as well! It is sad that some of these kids have never sat at a big table for a meal, never! But it doesn’t take them long to love the process – the cooking, the setting of the table, and the lingering over conversation. It’s all good!
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